Australian accounts for Pendleton with exceptional form
Anna Meares has provided a stunning example of her exceptional early-season form with dominant qualifying and gold medal performances during the women's sprint at the UCI Track World Cup Classics in Melbourne, Australia.
The Australian, who is the reigning 500m time trial world champion, rode a time of 10.9 in qualifying and backed that up to account for Olympic sprint champion Victoria Pendleton - who beat the Australian to take that title two years ago - in two heats to take the win and beat the British rider in that event for the first time since 2004.
"Victoria's dominated this event in the last five or six years, of course being the world champion five of those six years. She's really excelled in the individual sprint while I've really excelled in the individual time trial," said Meares after the win.
"It's been a long time between drinks for a win over her in the sprint - we're going on six or seven years now and to be able to do it in front of a home crowd, it's extra special."
Meares is again building towards another Olympic campaign, having ridden at the Athen and Beijing Games in 2004 and 2008. Her early-season form surprised everyone - including herself - and she now faces the welcome proposition of riding faster times that expected with the world championships several months away.
"I was actually looking for an 11.2 in the 200m qualifying, going off my Oceania times last week; neither my coach nor anyone in the team was expecting a sub-11 quite at this stage," explained Meares.
"I knew it was a possibility and I'm capable of it, I just haven't put together a great qualifying round. I think that was the difference this time around - I qualified great, I didn't get the really hard match-ups early on to tire me out so much for the finals. That's been an aspect of qualifying I've needed to work on and I feel I've done that."
Of particular note was Meares' performance in the first round of the gold medal final - she rode off the wheel of Pendleton in the back straight during the last lap and sustained that surge to win with apparent ease.
"I wanted to make a point of racing each possession from the drawn position that I got. Victoria is the best at this event and I think for me to win in London I need to be comfortable with riding her from the front and the back," said Meares.
"I don't think Vicky's quite at her best tonight and I was expecting anything from her - world champions are perhaps at their scariest when they're not at their best because they can really draw on those emotions and the attitude that you need. I've experienced that myself in the time trial. I knew I had to be on my game to beat Vicky and I think I was on top of it."
The experienced 27-year-old from Rockhampton, Queensland, isn't jumping to conclusions about what to expect fro Pendleton at the London Games in 18 months' time. She realises that the British rider will be back and at her peak in a bid to take back-to-back Olympic gold medals.
"I wouldn't actually say it's [the win] a psychological edge over her - if anything this is going to give her fuel to go home and make sure it doesn't happen again. It gives me fuel to go home and make sure it continues to happen!" said Meares.
"It might make for some really good matches over the next 18 months. I know that Vicky's main goal isn't to win a World Cup, it's to win [at] the London Olympics and that's what everyone's main goal is, so I'm looking forward to it."
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